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County, fire agencies forge ahead with long-term plan

In sharing the responsibilities of the county Fire Marshal’s office, local fire agencies are collaborating with county officials to form a long-term strategic plan.

Since the shakeup at the county Fire Marshal’s office earlier this year, the six local fire districts — Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Bremerton Fire Department, South Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Poulsbo Fire Department, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue and Bainbridge Island Fire Department — have continuously worked together on plan reviews, inspections and fire investigations.

At a recent meeting, representatives from the six fire jurisdictions met with officials from the Department of Community Development and the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office to hammer out details of a strategic plan for the future.

“We identified four task groups for long-term planning and agreed on the direction we want to go,” said CKFR Chief Ken Burdette, who also is the president of the Kitsap County Fire Chiefs Association.

The group prioritized its future goals with a top priority of hiring a new Fire Marshal — a position left vacant since March when former Fire Marshal Derrick Crawley resigned amidst allegations of domestic violence.

The county is expected to fully engage the fire districts to assist county staff in formulating a job description that will draw the best qualified candidates to fill the position, according to a prepared news release. It was agreed by all that the position should stay within county government.

Another priority of the group is determining a long-term plan for fire investigations. Dubbed Tier 1 and Tier 2 investigations, the first tier is an obvious cause of fire and is typically handled by firefighters. The second tier is a cause which is difficult to pinpoint and where an investigator is needed.

“For example if we go out to a car fire and it’s something obvious like an electrical fire, it’s a Tier 1,” Burdette said. “Tier 2 is when it’s difficult. That’s when trained investigators are needed. The task group is looking at who is going to be involved with that in the long term.”

He adds that since the short-term plan was implemented, it has been a successful process.

“Right now we’re working together, everyone has a plan of whose doing local investigations,” he said. “It’s been working very well, the system is working.”

Another task group will develop a plan for annual inspections. It was agreed all entities would work together on the task. Burdette estimates the number of annual fire inspections in Central Kitsap alone to be about 1,500.

It was decided that a fourth task group will work out a long-term goal for plan reviews which look at permits for “non-structural compliance with current building and fire codes.”

“The task group is looking how to coordinate without duplicating efforts,” Burdette said. “The process that will come out of this, it’s a good process.”

He adds many efforts were duplicated in the past and he is confident the new lines of communication will help put an end to that.

“I think (the collaboration) is a good thing,” he said. “I think we duplicated efforts.”

One example is plan reviews.

“We would look at plans and the county would look at the same portion of plans,” he said. “Working together, it will end up saving on duplication of efforts.”

Diving into long-term strategic planning, Burdette as well as others involved are taking a positive approach to the collaboration.

“We all came out of the meeting with a positive feeling,” he said. “It’s a step forward for the county and will improve communication and improve service at no additional cost to the public.”

He also ensures the public will not see a change in CKFR’s service.

“We are still working to help keep citizens and businesses safe, we’re going to continue to do that — that won’t change,” Burdette said.

As county administrator, Cris Gears, also expresses confidence in the long-term strategic planning.

“We are grateful to be working in partnership with all of the fire districts in a productive, solution-oriented partnership,” Gears said. “I am pleased we were able to work together strategically to improve the efficiency of our county fire inspection and permitting processes.”

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